The movement for marriage equality lands in Detroit

By |2018-01-16T07:04:25-05:00March 11th, 2004|Uncategorized|

DETROIT – The issue is spreading like wildfire across the country, and last week it landed in Detroit. On Wednesday, March 3, a crowd of nearly 170 converged upon the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building decrying efforts to insert discrimination into the U.S. Constitution – and Michigan’s, as well – and demanding marriage equality for gays.
“It was a call to action out of my total disgust for what’s going on across the country, and very timely considering what’s going on with the mayor,” said Susan Horowitz, a Between The Lines co-publisher and organizer of the event. “I saw this as a convergence of the Create Detroit conference.”
The conference, a spin-off of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s cool cities initiative, featured Richard Florida, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and author of the book “The Rise of the Creative Class.” In the book, Florida argues that the technology workforce is comprised of non-traditionalists and that one way of attracting is them is to promote tolerance of gays, an indicator that all are welcome in a city.
Gays in Detroit, however, were taken aback recently by statements made by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on a national news program denouncing gay marriage.
Protestors, carrying signs that read “Detroit – Cool City? You decide!” and “Separate Will Never Be Equal” – among other catchy slogans – criticized the mayor for his stance.
“We’re here today because we’re under attack,” said Sean Kosofsky of the Triangle Foundation. “George W. Bush wants to take away rights that we already don’t have. How many times can you take them away? We’re here to protest the comments of our mayor because we know he can do better. People all over the country are getting married. It will happen in Detroit. It’s inevitable.”
In the meantime, six couples walked single file into the county clerk’s office Wednesday. Each, as expected, was denied a license.
“They were very respectful,” said Darryl Lawson, who applied with his partner Kevin Love for a license. “They said that unfortunately it was Michigan law that they couldn’t give us a license. But the whole goal is we are going to put a face to this.”
Not so respectful were police and security guards on the premises who refused to allow news crews to take cameras inside the building. When Terry Lynn Howcott, an aide to Detroit City Council President Maryann Mahaffey, went upstairs to apprise her boss of the situation, the feisty councilwoman immediately left the council table and headed downstairs.
“It’s unconstitutional to prevent the cameras coming in,” Mahaffey told reporters. “I was told about it at the council table…and I went to our lawyer and he agrees. It’s unconstitutional. I would never see reporters and cameras as a security threat. That’s laughable.”
Mahaffey pledged to attempt to determine who gave the order to keep cameras out of the building. Before returning council chambers, she also took a minute to weigh in on the whole gay marriage debate.
“As far as I’m concerned, people have a right to formalize their relationships and I think it’s much ado about nothing,” she said, in stark contrast to comments recently made by the mayor. “I’ve known families who have been together for 53 years and they’re gay. And I’ve known couples together for 20 years when adultery happens. That’s not the heart of the matter, it’s the recognition of the relationships that are binding.”
But not everyone who gathered saw it that way.
“Sir, you are not a real pastor, you are lying on God,” Theresa Bibbs of Detroit told Pastor Karl Jackson of New Covenant Assembly of Justified Believers in Ferndale. Bibbs then turned to a nearby news camera. “Let’s be honest. They can’t make love normally…they are going to hell if they don’t change their way of life.”
Not so, said Brent Dorian Carpenter, one of the speakers at the rally.
“I am a child of God, too,” he told the assembled crowd. “I am citizen of Detroit, too. I am a taxpayer, too, and I want my 1,049 rights. It’s a sad day in Detroit when our so-called black leaders team up with George W. Bush in a call for discrimination that destroys the rights of black LGBTs and their families. It is a sad day in America when the black church hypocritically uses Biblical scriptures to condemn and oppress gays and lesbians – the same Bible that was historically used to justify black slavery for 500 years and the oppression of women for 2,000 years.
“Same-sex marriage is not some radical concept,” Carpenter continued. “Virtually every leader from the civil rights movement supports this cause – including Coretta Scott King, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., Angela Davis, Julian Bond, Rev. Al Sharpton, Congressman John Lewis, and Nelson Mandella. History is on our side. We shall overcome.”
That’s what Love is counting on. And even though he and his partner were denied a license, he still believes they made a difference.
“We definitely think we made an impact and it chipped on that wall a little bit,” he said. “And if you keep chipping, eventually it has to come down.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.